Prey to moneylenders: Cork families targeted during Communion season

Ursula Collins, regional manager for financial advice service MABS, told The Echo they are hearing from families who felt their only option was to succumb to ruthless moneylenders.
Prey to moneylenders: Cork families targeted during Communion season

Moneylenders in Cork City are cashing in on First Holy Communion season by targeting families with a child receiving the sacrament who may not have access to low-cost credit.

MONEYLENDERS in Cork City are cashing in on First Holy Communion season by targeting families with a child receiving the sacrament who may not have access to low-cost credit.

Ursula Collins, regional manager for financial advice service MABS, told The Echo they are hearing from families who felt their only option was to succumb to ruthless moneylenders.

It comes as thousands of children celebrate their First Communion throughout this month.

She explained that certain parts of the city are considered hotspots for moneylenders.

“Illegal moneylenders are targeting areas where there are high levels of unemployment among other socioeconomic factors,” Ms Collins said. “These are areas where people are very vulnerable to illegal moneylenders.

“The person offering the money will often put a lot of effort into persuading them, saying things like ‘are you sure you don’t need a few quid?’ or ‘I’ll sort you out’.

“Cork City is just a mirror image of what is going on all over the country,” she said. “Moneylenders know the people who are under strain and they’ll target those particular areas.”

Ms Collins said that while moneylenders were more common in the 90s, it is still an issue affecting many families already in crisis.

“There are still people knocking on doors and collecting every week,” she said. “This was one of the original reasons Mabs was set up. It is still an issue in the city, given that there are so many now who don’t have access to low-cost credit. 

"If you don’t have a good track record, regular income, or if you have defaulted on a loan then your options can become very limited. You’re not going to get credit cards or have a loan approved.”

She urged people crippled by debt to contact the organisation as early as possible. “What people do and spend their money on is up to themselves. We are a non-judgmental service. Our focus is on helping people get out of debt. We have schemes where we can assist people and help break the cycle of using illegal moneylenders. That’s why we are asking people to contact us at the earliest opportunity.”

Ms Collins said a lack of access to low-cost credit can be a major issue for people. “It is happening to a lesser extent but it is still happening because the access to low-cost credit has not increased.” Other organisations have also been dealing with families devastated by the crippling costs of communions.

Last October, South West Regional co-ordinator for the Society of St Vincent de Paul, Gerry Garvey said they were helping more middleclass families than ever who were trying to keep their poverty a secret from friends and neighbours. This was in addition to families who have consistently availed of the service.

Mr Garvey said they have been dealing with well over 100 families, in Cork City alone, unable to pay for communion and confirmation celebrations.

Caitríona Twomey from the soup kitchen charity Cork Penny Dinners was also among those alleviating the pressures for families celebrating communions. The charity distributed communion dresses to the children of struggling families in Cork City and county in the run-up to communion season 2022.

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